Trade Union Sets Congress

The Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cam­bodia will hold its fourth congress Thursday to choose a new president, the union’s spokesman said.

Nearly 800 union members from 70 factories across the country will travel to Phnom Penh this week to participate in the one-day congress to be held in Toul Kok district, spokesman Phuong Mountry said last week.

The Free Trade Union, an active group known to conflict with the government-affiliated Pagoda Boys student group, of­ten has been denied permission from the municipality to hold dem­onstrations and rallies. But Phnom Penh Cabinet Director Mann Chhoeun approved the congress in an April 1 letter granting the union permission to hold elections next month.

At least 10 candidates will run for president, a position held by Chea Vichea the past eight years, Phuong Mountry said. Each candidate will be allotted five minutes to convince workers why he or she is worthy of the job.

An Nan, legal supervisor to the Cambodia Labor Organization, lauded the union’s election, saying that it is a legitimate union.

“The election is very important for workers. If the president of the union doesn’t help the workers they won’t vote for them any more,” he said.

Of the 11 workers’ federations representing the country’s 300 unions, An Nan said many don’t hold elections and others often don’t serve the interest of their workers.

“Some unions were formed [for] their own interest only, but they help the workers. And some unions were formed by the government to offer a good image for the government,” An Nan said.

What distinguishes a legitimate union from a federation working for its own devices, he said, is its ability to fulfill three points. They must work for voters’ interests, have a democratic structure and practice financial transparency.

Thach San, adviser to Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Ith Sam Heng, said unions must hold elections to select their presidents, but acknowledged that some groups have unique rules by which they elect their leaders.

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